What are mala beads?

A mala, also known as mala beads, is a necklace or a strand of 108 beads + 1 guru bead and has been used for thousands of years in traditions like Buddhism, Hinduism, yoga and prayer for keeping count during mantra meditations. The word mala is Sanskrit and means rosary and is traditionally used to repeat a positive confirmation or mantra along each pearl/bead to get a more calming, interconnected and spiritual state.


The beads

The 108 beads that a mala consist of can be made of many materials, such as seeds, wood, or precious metals and stones. It is said that some materials have properties that may be desirable, such as agate that are said to be earthy or they have compounds with a certain chakra, as is the case with jade. The 108 beads that a traditional grind consists of represent the universe (1), nothing (0) and all (8 or infinity).

Why 108?

Number 108 is significant for so many reasons. The 108 beads that makes a traditional mala represent the universe (1), nothing (0) and all (8 or infinity). Many choose to recite their mantra in Sanskrit during mediation and within the Sanskrit alphabet there are 54 letters which all has a feminine and a masculine version, which makes a total of 108. Some also think that there are 108 stages on the journey of the human soul, that there are 108 energy lines that goes true our bodies to the heart and the amazing truth is that the meaning of 108 beads on your mala is open to so many more interpretations. However, depending on the belief system for which they are used, malas may contain strings of 18, 27, or 54 beads as well.   mala-bead-pearls

Marker beads

While meditating the mind often wanders off in one of those stories that we tell ourselves and it takes us away from the very moment of mantra. Once the mind wanders off you will continue to count the beads but will “forget” what you are doing because the mind is somewhere else and once you come across this marker bead which is different from the rest it is like a little reminder to tell you to come back to the mala, your mediation and your mantra. The marker bead works as it acts as a “wake up call” or a “check” to make sure you are aware of what you are doing.

The guru bead

The guru bead is the pearl that the tassel attaches directly to. The guru bead is often the 109th stone and is said to symbolize the Guru from which the student has received a mantra used or recited, representing the student guru relationship. It is said to be disrespectful to cross the guru pearl so if you want to do more than 108 repetitions, you can wait back along the template.

The knots/space between the beads

A clear sign of a traditionally designed mala is that it has a knot  och a smaller bead between each gem. This not only makes the mala stronger, it also provides the perfect space for Japa Meditation – a meditation that uses each gem to count on a repetition of a mantra. A bonus that comes with having a knotedmala is that you will not lose your beads or gems if you mala would break! If your mala breaks, it may be a sign that you have new intentions in your life and that the malan has done the job it was supposed to do.

The tassle

The tassle has several meanings. The one that reasonats most with us at Manimala is that the strings that go through the mala gathered together as one to become part of a whole. It represents our connection with the spiritual, divine, and to each other. It represents unity and overall.

Choose your mala based on your first gut feeling and trust your intuition, the first feeling is often the right one. Take care of your mala – as it is a carefully crafted piece of jewelry!

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